Abadi is Iraq’s last chance to stay united

By Arian Mufid:

Haidar Abadi, new Iraq prime minister

Haidar Abadi, new Iraqi prime minister

This week Haider Abadi was endorsed by the Iraqi parliament as the new prime minister of Iraq. Mr Abadi is a Shia from the Dawa Party, the same party as the former premier, Nuri Maliki. He has an educated background and did most of his postgraduate studies in the UK.  Kurds have no bad comments about Haider Abadi, but they also have no good comments. In the hands of the previous prime minster, Iraq descended into today’s uncontrollable condition. Political observers know about the severe damage Maliki did to the unity and entity of Iraq. He thoroughly alienated the Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Sunnis were sacked from their posts and jailed. Kurds had several raw deals and so many unfulfilled promises.

The Western world has expressed optimism at the arrival of the new prime minister but the wounds of the last twelve years cannot be healed overnight and Abadi has an almost impossible job to do. Sunni tribes have responded quickly, with 25 tribes and their leaders in the Anbar area sending a message to the new prime minister saying they will conditionally support his government if there is a withdrawal of all Shia militias from their areas and an end to the deliberate random bombing of civilians in Sunni areas. These two points are completely legitimate and necessary for peace and reconciliation. The Iraq government has conducted Syrian-style bombings in Fallujah where members of the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) terrorist group are hiding, using the local population to protect themselves.

The uncertainties facing Abadi are accentuated by an atmosphere of civil war. Within the next few days he must consider how he will position himself in relation to the Sunnis and Kurds. The Kurds have had long-term, profound differences with previous Iraq governments over the issues of Article 140, oil and gas, the Peshmerga, and so on. Sunnis have not experienced real power sharing and have been marginalised by previous governments.  Iraq is burning and democracy is almost meaningless unless a strong leader can acceptably redefine new roles for Kurds and Sunnis. First of all, Mr Abadi must deliver the successful formation of the new government, navigating the appointment of suitable professional people for the posts. Mr Abadi’s intention should be to: first, defeat the terrorism that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent people; second, eradicate corruption and nepotism; and third, build a bridge to the Kurds and Sunnis. Otherwise, as Mr Abadi knows, this is the last chance for Iraq to stay united.

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